The EBRD has launched its first investments in emerging Arab democracies, in a major step in its response to the wave of political and economic change in countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
On Tuesday 18 September the EBRD’s Board of Directors, which represents the Bank’s shareholders, approved three projects in Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. Investments in Egypt are expected to be submitted shortly.
Today’s projects are the first in a series of investments in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED), which are expected to be running at as much as €2.5 billion annually by 2015, and comprise:
- A $30 million trade finance line for InvestBank in Jordan, which will facilitate their international trade finance activities. This facility will support InvestBank as it develops new products and is aimed specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which also trade with counterparties from the EBRD’s countries of operations.
- A €20 million commitment to the Maghreb Private Equity Fund III sponsored by AfricInvest-TunInvest, one of the leading local private equity firms in Tunisia and Morocco. The EBRD financing will be used to make equity and equity-related investments primarily in small and medium-sized companies in the SEMED region.
- A €20 million loan in two equal tranches to Morocco’s Société Générale Marocaine de Banques (SGMB) for on-lending to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). The EBRD is also providing SGMB with a €5 million trade finance facility to support its clients’ trade business, including trade with counterparties in the EBRD countries of operations.
The development of the private sector is at the heart of the EBRD’s response to the demand for economic improvements in the new region, promoting the development of small business, which can help to create jobs in an area where youth unemployment in particular is a major social problem.
Other priorities for the region include helping to enhance the quality of people’s lives by improving local services, and also working to secure energy supplies by supporting the development of sustainable sources of energy and reducing energy waste.
In preparation for investments of up to €200 million across the region by the end of this year, the EBRD has opened offices in all four SEMED countries and is in the process of appointing managers to lead the national teams.
The EU and nine donors to the SEMED Multi-Donor Account together with the Bank’s own funding spearheaded activities in the SEMED region earlier this year by providing €59 million for technical cooperation activities, that helped prepare the way for future EBRD investments.
Hildegard Gacek, Managing Director for the SEMED region said, “We have very quickly built strong relationships with the authorities across the new region, and also with a large number of private sector companies. We have already built up a strong pipeline of projects to support the region.”
The following sectors have been identified as the most immediate beneficiaries of EBRD capital: the financial sector, providing SME finance via banks and equity funds; the energy sector, including energy efficiency; municipal services such as water and waste water treatment, as well as infrastructure in co-operation with the private sector.. There will also be a major focus on involving the private corporate sector in agribusiness.
One of the next projects on the Bank's agenda is a $100 million investment in the development of a power plant near Amman to help meet Jordan's acute energy shortages.
Shareholders will be asked to consider this project in the coming months.
The Bank’s work in the SEMED countries is being closely co-ordinated with other international organisations in order to react efficiently to significant needs for investment.
At the same time, the EBRD continues to invest at record levels in its traditional countries of operations in central, south-eastern and eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and central Asia.
With most of these countries still facing challenges from the world economic crisis and from continuing problems in the eurozone, the EBRD is again on track to invest about €9 billion for the whole of 2012.